So I wanted to get into more detail about the actually-good pitching this season. Because yes, there are some bright spots in here and I want to write something positive. Disclaimer: this is VERY small sample size that we have so far, so I will be looking at past seasons to try and see if it is sustainable.
Overall, the starters have been surprisingly good this year. Bundy, Canning, Heaney, and Sandoval have been well above-average, with the first three in particular impressing.
Dylan Bundy may actually be an ace
Dylan Bundy has a 2.84 ERA, 0.711 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 152 in 12.2 innings. Yes, this is a small sample size, which may be seen as worrying. After all, he has had only two seasons of being an above-average pitcher in 2016 and 2017, so the thought of this being just a fluke is not unfounded. But he is a former first round pick, has had success before, and the Angels defense is much better than Baltimore’s.
Because of the way this season is structured, Bundy will not face the MFY or Boston this year, and that is one of the differences. In his career, the teams he did the worst against are on the East Coast or the Angels, whom he doesn’t have to face anymore. In fact, 5 of the top 6 teams he does well against are on the schedule this year with only 1 team that he didn’t do well against being on the West Coast, the Padres. Now since he faced them once THAT may be a fluke so, to eliminate noise, I removed all teams he made fewer than 3 starts against.
With that adjustment, his worst starts were vs. the Angels, Rays, MFY, Red Sox, and Tigers, while his best starts are against White Sox, Mariners, and Rangers. Mariners and Rangers make up 1/3 of the schedule and the other AL West teams Oakland and Houston are both teams he pitches just above average against. In fact, his ERA vs. the teams on the schedule this season in his career is 2.17 in 154.1 innings. That is basically most of a season’s worth!
Griffin Canning has potential
Canning this season has an ERA of 3.38 in his 10.2 innings pitched. Unlike Bundy, he doesn’t have years of experience as this is only his second season. Through his 20 games so far in his career, his 102 ERA+ is slightly above average and he is worth 1.5 BWAR so far. There isn’t much on MLB Canning to go on so looking at his minors stats may show something.
His last minors experience was in 2019 at AAA Salt lake, a notorious hitters park in a hitters league. So how did he do? Well in 3 starts he had an ERA of 0.56 in 16 innings pitched and had a WHIP of 0.938. Yes, that was against minor league players and his 2018 outing there was dreadful, but there is potential there, that is the point.
Griffin Canning has great STUFF; this is evident with his first start with 7 strikeouts in not even 5 innings. In fact it is in almost every start. In 16/19 career starts, Canning has at least 5 strikeouts (and 6 starts of at least 7). Considering that he hasn’t pitched long in games due to injury concerns (he only reached the 7th inning twice) his K per 9 is still 9.6 In Angels history, only 3 pitchers have topped that: Percy, K-Rod, and The Express. For starters, only The Express has ever had a 9.5 K or better per 9 season in Angels history. Canning at 19 starts isn’t quite at a full season, but he does have stuff, even if players are striking out more than in the past.
Heaney is finally, hopefully, healthy
Andrew Heaney has started well so far this season. In 9.2 innings pitched he has given up just 3 runs, which is an ERA of 2.79. Yes, that is barely more than a CG worth so it is fair to be skeptical of the very small sample size. Still, that is an ERA+ of 156 so far and a bWAR of 0.4.
Of the top 3 starters, Heaney is the one most uncertain. His injury history has only allowed him 1 full healthy season in his Angels career back in 2018. That season was slightly above average, with a 101 ERA+ in 180 innings pitched. It was juiced ball time so his ERA of 4.15 isn’t that bad for the year. Still, being injured constantly since he came in the trade with the Dodgers for HK-47 has really stung. When healthy, Heaney is a lefty that can be brilliant; last August, after Skaggs death, Heaney had a 1.82 ERA in his 4 games started that month striking out 12.4 per 9 and a WHIP of 0.770. Of course we do not get to see that often from him.
But he was not expected to go out and be the Ace this season. In 2018 with Ohtani and the hype (and health for himself) Heaney did fine as the pressure was not on him. Most of 2019 was a struggle because the SP lost Ohtani and Harvey and Cahill sucked so it was on him, Skaggs, and the rookies to do something. Heaney’s other good season was in 2015, when Richards was pitching well despite being injured last fall, Santiago was good, and Wilson wasn’t trash. Heaney had a 108 ERA+ in 105 and 2/3 innings a bWAR of 1.9. He can be good if he isn’t the one to carry the team. (And is healthy.)
Relief pitchers that actually do not suck
Contrary to our feelings so far, there have been bright spots in the bullpen. The biggest one is Felix Peña. He is by far the best reliever this season as his ERA+ is INFINITY due to not allowing a run yet this season through 5 and 2/3 innings. He has been shutdown so far and in his games as a starter and reliever, he has been at least average so far in the past for the Angels. In his career he has split time almost exactly evenly between starting and relieving in innings pitched and in results. He may take over SP duties, but he is needed to be the middle relief go-to from whenever Maddon pulls the starter to the 9th.
Cam Bedrosian the “subsoil” may be no more. Not only is his (very small sample size) ERA+ a ridiculous 219 (in just 4 and 1/3 innings) but 2018 and 2019 Bedrock was actually Bedrock. 111 and 142 ERA+ the last 2 seasons suggest he’s getting better each year. In 129 and 2/3 innings pitched the last 3 seasons his ERA is a good 3.47 and an ERA+ of 127.
I have always liked Noé Ramirez ever since he came to the Angels in 2017. I know he isn’t that popular among Angels fans, but he has done more good than bad. This season he is posting a 216 ERA+ and in his Angels career that number is 106. He is worth 1.6 bWAR in his time with the Halos and he is one of the pitchers who will stand up for the team, hitting Marisnick last season for running over his catcher, and this season hitting Altuve just so he can be thrown out. Sure, it most likely wasn’t on purpose, but his willingness to do the things that others aren’t willing to do is just something I appreciate about him.
Yes, the Angels pitching, especially the bullpen has not been good this season.
If Ohtani got that call last start things may be different. Still, looking at the bright side of a 3-7 start is difficult to do and hopefully this article has shown that maybe things can be turned around before it is too late.
Never thought I’d say this, but I probably trust Felix Peña more than any other reliever at this point. Perhaps Bedrosian.
There are a lot of bright spots on the starting pitching side (Bundy/Canning/Heaney, as mentioned), but there’s so much disappointment elsewhere that it doesn’t feel like it. 2020 is weird, man.
Pitching is where the bad always takes attention from the good. You can have so many black holes on offense and still see the good easy. But pitching? Have to be a CY Young candidate to break through the suck.
The rotation has definitely been better than that chart suggests. In addition to what you said about Bundy, Heaney, and Canning, Sandoval also did well. Andriese also did well in a long-relief role in Ohtani’s first game that was practically a start.
If you take Ohtani’s two outlier starts out, the Angels get much closer to that center line.
Yes, the SP going forward looks to improve that.
Dylan Bundy also got off to a good start last year in Baltimore, the first two months of the season. Don’t get ahead of ourselves with him. Same with Ty Buttrey.
Counterpoint: Bundy only has to be good for the first two months of the season, because there are only two months of the season!
Will Joe have the autonomy to bench a still struggling Justin Upton for Jo Adell? Hope so.
Adell will be playing every day.
That’s concern for 2021. 2020 Bundy just needs to have 10 more good starts